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April 06, 2018

Taking a Stand for Life

by Oak Brook College of Law

An alumnus shares her work in the defense of life.

I sip my second cup of coffee as my phone’s buzz fills my ear. I fiddle with the volume. The mechanical voice says, “You will now enter the meeting” and suddenly my boss’ voice crackles through my headset. I am a bit late to join staff meeting today, and she is already describing a call for legal assistance that had recently come in. It is a developing situation. I scribble notes as fast as I can—it sounds interesting.

I work for a small public interest firm with the mission to provide legal assistance in defense of life. As a firm, we’re a low-overhead operation, with staff scattered over the country (hence staff meeting via phone) and a loose network of volunteers and supporters who make our work possible. Our tagline is “defending the defenders of life,” and as it turns out, that seldom fails to be an interesting job. Issues such as embryonic stem cell research, abortion, physician assisted suicide and end-of-life care, can be polarizing. Many of these battles play out in the courtroom in terms such as the limits of free speech and rights of conscience. Let me sketch a few for you:

Life

Free Speech: An African American pastor from Oakland, brokenhearted over the ravages of abortion in his community begins to peacefully witness outside his local abortion clinic. He holds a cardboard sign that reads: “Jesus loves you and your baby, let us help.” Wrongfully convicted under a city ordinance aimed at curtailing his efforts, he is sent to jail. Ultimately the ordinance is declared unconstitutional and he is vindicated. Today, he remains a powerful advocate for life.

Anyone who stands for life in an academic setting seems to come under particular fire. The stories go something like this: students arrested outside an abortion clinic; students arrested outside a high school. Two college students attacked by a professor for daring to hold signs presenting the truth about abortion. Two others arrested for daring to hold a small, peaceful demonstration on campus.

Rights of Conscience: A public school teacher is fired from his job after he asks for a religious accommodation. His objection? Facilitating a Planned Parenthood program’s recruitment efforts in his classroom. Years later, his case continues in litigation.

A county social worker fired after refusing to provide referrals to abortion providers. Her case settles, and the county agrees to re-write their religious accommodation policies.

A student in a med-tech program kicked out of school for refusing to participate in abortion during her clinical rotation. The school backpedals upon receipt of a letter threatening legal action, and the student is able to complete her studies.

End-of-Life Care: A family is distraught when a hospital repeatedly refuses to provide life-sustaining care for their elderly mother. After two hearings, a judge rules that the hospital need not provide continued care, including nutrition and hydration—the elderly patient dies within days of the order. Refusal of care is an all too common story.

Add to this recurring scenario the fact that millions of residents of states such as California and Oregon have been provided with the “choice” to obtain physician assisted suicide should they become seriously ill. A group of doctors have brought a legal challenge to California’s statute, pointing out that this type of law effectively removes the best chance of help—both physical and emotional—that the very ill receive.

I sit at my desk thinking about the variety situations faced by my clients, and realize the remnant of coffee in my mug is cold. As I head to the coffee pot for a refill, I think of the amazing people I work with and work for. If we see a culture of life begin to flourish in our Nation, we have these and many other courageous people to thank for it. Their willingness to sacrifice their comfort, financial security, and reputations in defense of life inspire me every day.

About the author: Rebekah graduated from Oak Brook College of Law’s JD program in 2008. She currently serves as a legal counsel for Freedom Foundation. Rebekah resides in Springfield, Oregon.

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About the Author

Oak Brook College of Law
Oak Brook College is a distinctly mission-driven school, with every aspect of our program intentionally designed to equip men and women to stand for truth and glorify God in the legal profession.

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